Melissa Marlowe stood at the head of the vault runway Thursday evening, readying herself for her least-favorite event. While she studied the situation, Bela Karolyi, coach of seven of Marlowe's rivals, glared at the vault judges and finally walked across the vault runway to lodge an inquiry with the meet referee about the disparity in the scoring for Chelle Stack - one judge gave 9.3, another 9.7.

Karolyi stood a foot or two from the vault runway pleading his case. Marlowe waited.Finally, Coach Bill Strauss of the Parkettes (Pa.) club, loudly told Karolyi to move. Karolyi quickly moved. Marlowe vaulted.

"I felt I had to help defend Missy," said Strauss. "I don't know what I said. I was angry."

"I was not aware of it," said Karolyi. "I was in the middle of shock." He said he wished someone had told him to move and said he didn't hear Strauss.

"I saw him standing on the side and stopped," said Marlowe, "but then I said, `Forget about it. He's not in the way.' I don't know if he was trying to play mind games with me. Mind games are silly."

Marlowe scored 9.45, .15 less than she got in the Championships of the USA three weeks ago. That is the qualifying meet for the U.S. Olympic trials that will finish for the women on Saturday afternoon. "I've vaulted better, but I can't say it had anything to do with that," Marlowe said.